Acquiring a First Language
By Julio Foppoli
Have you ever wondered how you learned to speak your native language? We can speak the language perfectly well, with grammatically perfect utterances and appropriate and accurate vocabulary for every possible situation or context in our lives. Obviously, we can infer, our parents had something to do with this. After all, we speak their same language.
However, I guess it will be very hard for you to recall when it was that your parents grabbed a grammar book and a glossary of specific terms for every possible aspect of your life and forced you to study until you had a perfect mastery of your native tongue.
It goes without saying that remembering such an event will be impossible as no one has ever acquired a native tongue that way. For starters, babies and even young children are unable to memorize rules. Interestingly enough, by the age of 6 they can produce almost perfectly sentences and talk with amazing accuracy about most aspects that are relevant to their lives, respecting all or almost all the grammar rules of the language! How come?!
The evidence is not conclusive but all of it suggests that language is an innate capacity of human beings which is acquired during a critical period between ages 2-8. In other words, human beings have an innate predisposition towards language acquisition. This natural way of "picking up the language" without effort or formal systematic studies of any kind is called "first language acquisition."